Sep 26, 2021 8:24 AM
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Bella rolls over onto her back. She's been doing leg lifts. Now her legs hurt. She's going to lie there for a while, and then she's going to drive home, and then she's going to write about a paragraph of Government essay before expiring from boredom. Jessica is sick. Angela is babysitting. They're still doing stuff she's covered in Bio and books she's read in English; it would take better teachers than she has to make Spanish and Trig interesting. A trip to Port Angeles to do something is the work of an entire day, not a school afternoon. She really needs to save up and buy more books. Or take up - quilting, or something.

Sigh.
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"You look bored to fucking tears," observes Alice.

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"I'm not crying, and even if I were, I've never produced tears that talented," deadpans Bella. "Hello."

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He snickers.

"So what's up?"
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"If anything were up, would I be bored?" she says quizzically.

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"I'll give you that," he concedes. "Whatcha gonna do about it?"

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"Plan a weekend book-shopping trip in unreasonable detail, I think. I may be able to wrangle an invitation to come do my homework at Angela's house, and her brothers could be entertaining little critters, I won't know until I meet them. Why?"

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"Well, I was gonna start thinking up suggestions, but I guess you're covered."

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"If you have suggestions, by all means supply them. Expending limited social capital and slowly developing an obsessive personality disorder aren't exactly my entertainments of choice," says Bella, sitting up.

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"Um... you could take a tour of my stupidly huge house, that'd probably burn a few hours," he says. "I'm gonna go out on a limb and say you're not a fan of climbing trees... pun not intended but totally hilarious and I don't regret it for a second."

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"I am indeed not a fan of treeclimbing - your house, huh." Bella considers this. She reaches into her pocket for her notebook, and flips through it. She looks between it and Alice a few times. Then she opens up her phone and dials Charlie's number without completing the call yet. "I'm going to try an experiment," she says.

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"...O...kaaay," says Alice, clearly lost.

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Bella poises her thumb over the send button, looks Alice in the eye, and carefully pronounces the word, "Freak."

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His mouth drops open in shock.

He blinks several times.

"Holy shit," he says in stunned tones, "I think you might actually be the perfect woman. Marry me."
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Bella blinks, rereads her notes, draws a question mark next to the plus sign, puts the notebook away, and says, "Okay, I think it's probably safe for me to go to your house, but no on the marrying you."

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He laughs.

"It's cool," he says, "I just haven't gone from zero to crush that fast since the first time I heard Freddie Mercury's voice. So, wanna come over?"
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This conversation has acquired a different tone.

"Well," she says. "Will anyone else be home?"
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"Dad will," he says, "I guarantee you. Probably Mom and Hilary, too."

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"Then all right, I'll come over," she says, getting to her feet now that her legs are not so uncomfortably leaden. "Is it a long drive?"

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"Not hugely," he says. "You might end up driving me or following me there, depending if Theo's on his way yet. Hang on, I'll check."

He pulls a phone out of his pocket and dials.

"Hi, Mom! I'm fine!" is how he opens the conversation.

Shortly afterward, "No, I swear. Cross my heart." A slight pause. "Uh-huh. Listen, is Theo out the door yet?" Another, longer pause. "Yeah, no, you got it. I've got a friend coming over who has a car, so—" He cuts himself off, cocks his head, and glances at Bella. "Mind if I tell my mom your name?"
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"It's Bella," he says.

Another pause.

"Mother, I swear before God she is not my girlfriend," he says, half-laughing. "Trust me on this. No. Don't even—no. Okay?" A beat. "Okay. Good. Thank you. See you in a bit." ...He rolls his eyes. "Yes, I will call you if I forget the directions to my own house. Goodbye, Mother."

After one last pause presumably containing a corresponding farewell, he hangs up.
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"You have interesting conversations with your mother," Bella says. "I take it I'm driving you there?"

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"Yep," he says. "That okay? We could also walk, but that might take a while, and y'know. Your car."

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"Yes, my car." Bella heads for the door. "I'm sort of curious why you had to so vehemently deny girlfriendhood. If I'd said 'by all means let us elope' a moment ago what would you have told her?"

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"That you were my fiancee," cheerfully.

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